Blair is 'deeply European', says Raffarin

21st January 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Jan 20 (AFP) - British Prime Minister Tony Blair is "deeply European" and not simply running a vassal government to the United States, his French counterpart Jean-Pierre Raffarin said Thursday.

PARIS, Jan 20 (AFP) - British Prime Minister Tony Blair is "deeply European" and not simply running a vassal government to the United States, his French counterpart Jean-Pierre Raffarin said Thursday.

"In the debate between the United States and France, I would not like to see the United Kingdom's political identity underestimated," Raffarin told a parliamentary debate on transatlantic relations.

He criticised views sometimes expressed in French media and elsewhere that Britain had no strategy nor self-image of its own and was beholden to Washington.

"I sincerely believe that Tony Blair is deeply European. Obviously there are privileged ties but his European choices are clear and he has to convince the British people of that," he said.

"We must help in that effort, but I do not doubt Tony Blair's European vision.... I think that, when the moment comes, he will be able to convince Britons to vote for the draft constitution" being proposed to underpin the European Union.

Facing a potentially perilous referendum on the constitution, Blair's government has hired a commercial PR company to extol the document's virtues to the people, the Financial Times reported Thursday, citing a Foreign Office memo.

Losing the referendum, which would be most likely to take place in 2006, would "jeopardise our position in the EU" and "marginalise and isolate us", the memo added.

Opinion polls show a great degree of scepticism about the constitution, and some British government ministers have complained that too much newspaper coverage about the EU is either unbalanced or plain false.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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